Saturday, 9 June 2012

Noss Mayo peninsula

As a family man, my cycling often comes last on a lengthy list of priorities. This is a statement of fact, and not a complaint, and I've mentioned it as it ties in directly with this post.

My youngest badly wanted to learn to ride a horse, so we signed her up for Pony Club at the rather excellent Newton Ferrers Equistrian Centre. Pony Club runs from 9am until 1pm and during that time the kids do some riding, but also learn about caring for the ponies, in addition to games and other activities.

Four hours isn't a particularly long time if you have things to do, but having to wait for four hours is a bit much! On the other hand, driving back home isn't a viable option, as it is almost half-an-hour each way. A total of two hours driving for four hours of pony club is pushing things a bit, and that's before we start looking at the extra fuel burnt, pollution and other issues.

Newton Ferrers is a village situated between the Yealm estuary and Newton Creek, while Noss Mayo is on the opposite side of Newton Creek. The South West Coast Path runs through both villages, before continuing on towards Mothecombe and beyond.

Yes, that IS a 16% incline!
The South West Coast Path, when leaving Noss Mayo, follows an old coach road built by Baron Revelstoke in the late 1800s, who apparently was a flashy old sod that wanted a route to show off his estate to his visitors. As a result, the path is mostly in a decent condition, given that it doesn't have a sealed surface. Also, much like an old railway track bed, the Revelstoke Drive, as the path is now known, doesn't have any steep gradients.
Now given that Edward Baring, who was the first Baron Revelstoke, was a senior partner in the now-collapsed Barings Bank, I guess we could say that sometimes bankers do do something that results in the greater good, even if that wasn't the intention at the time!

As you would've guessed by now, I decided to cycle a circular route from Newton Ferrers Equistrian Centre to Noss Mayo, along Revelstoke Drive and back again.

This is a gorgeous route, with views of the Yealm estuary, as well as out to sea, but be warned - there are a fair few hills in the area!

I started cycling downhill into Newton Ferrers, and soon enough went flying past a group of presumably locals, while I missed my turning for Noss Mayo.
A house in Newton Ferrors built on land
reclaimed from the water
Here's an important lesson that I appear very slow to learn: ALWAYS check your directions before gleefully allowing gravity to drag you down a hill!

I was determined NOT to use a map, nor any GPS system, so I expected to go off-route a few times.

Newton Ferrors as viewed from the start of
Revelstoke Drive
Having turned around at Newton Ferrers harbour, I struggled back up the hill, passing the same group of locals who by now were looking at me rather oddly. Once I got back to the point where I was meant to turn, it was downhill again all the way to the edge of Newton Creek, where the road makes a sharp, almost U-turn, and I started gaining height again as I entered Noss Mayo.

The uphill continues for some distance before descending to the edge of Noss Creek, where I took a sharp right to follow the road that runs parallel to the water. After some time, signs indicate that motorised access to the road is restricted to the row of houses a bit further along, and I found myself cycling through woods, though the river is almost constantly visible.

The mouth of the bay
Just after the houses there is a wooden gate, after which the path is unsealed. I believe that it will be very muddy in places during rainy weather, but when I cycled through it was mostly dry.

I was pacing a fishing boat that was quite close to shore as I cycled along. Revelstoke Drive here is very exposed and while I was fortunate with only medium strength winds, I have no doubt that wind at times will make walking here rather difficult, let alone cycling!
Revelstoke Drive

The only iffy bit is where the path skirts a solitary house. Clearly Revelstoke Drive used to pass straight through this property, but now travelers are forced to go around it. It isn't actually a big deal at all, and I didn't mind, though there are two gates to pass through, with the first being situated right where the now narrow path steeply descends, making it a bit tricky to hold on to your bike while opening the gate.

Not long afterwards, the drive sweeps back inland and will bring you to a vehicle gate. The South West Coast path continues along to the right, but I went through the gates and found myself cycling on a lane, which I followed in an Easterly direction.
Update: On a second trip, I cycled along the South West Coast Path, as it veered off to the right, and details of that are further below.

At the top of Revelstoke Park there is a sign pointing to a beach, so I cycled all the way down the hill, only to find I wouldn't be able to get onto the actual beach without carrying my bike. Having discovered this bit of news, I cycled back up the rather steep uphill.

Once I reached the top, I was getting concerned about the time, so I headed back towards Noss Mayo. Once in Noss Mayo, I had a nice long downhill before reaching the almost U-turn, from where is was uphill almost all the way back.

All in all, it is a nice ride, with plenty variation in the landscape, route surface and inclines. There are two pubs in Noss Mayo, but I cannot tell you much about them as I didn't stop. In Newton Ferrers there is the Tearoom on the Green, which appears to be some community-run project, but sadly it appears to never be open on a Saturday! That's a pity, as it would have made an ideal pit stop for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake.

Update:
The easy-to-miss signpost where you
should veer right
As mentioned above, on a subsequent trip, I continued along the South West Coast Path as it veered off to the right. Shortly after I came to a gate and found it locked. There was however a stile to climb over, so I lifted my bike and climbed over. I have often found cyclist-unfriendly infrastructure, even on dedicated cycleways, so despite being mildly annoyed, I wasn't overly concerned by this.
St Peter's church














The track, still the remains of Revelstoke Drive, continues to hug the shoreline as it winds its way along and before long a small but rather sturdy building became visible to the left. I've since come to believe this is St Peter's Church, though I may be mistaken.

Before long I passed through another gate, one marking the land I was just leaving as belonging to the National Trust, and immediately the path became worse and far more overgrown. For the most part it was a single track, though easy enough to cycle along.

Finally, the path joins the road at Revelstoke Park, where I had previously cycled down the hill in a vain attempt at getting onto the beach. Just before the road there is a small parking area with kissing gate that I'd never get my bike through. The fence around the parking is made of old railway sleepers planted upright, and is little over knee-height, so I simply lifted my bike over.

As I poured a cup of coffee from the flask in my panniers, I noticed this sign below:
Devon County Council says No!
Frustratingly, it appears cycling is verboten along the section I had just cycled, though I saw no corresponding sign at the other end. Perhaps that means cycling is permitted, but only in one direction? ;-)
Anyway, it's a pity as it is a pretty path to cycle along. I guess this will have been the only time I've ever done so!